This Is Why You Don’t Need Adobe Reader

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Adobe Reader isn’t just unnecessary – it has a history of being an application you wouldn’t want on your system. From being extremely heavy and slow to having a long series of security flaws, Adobe Reader has never been a very good application for the average user. Adobe Reader’s speed and security have improved recently, but they haven’t improved enough. You probably don’t need Adobe Reader installed at all, and it’s likely your browser or operating system already has built-in PDF support.

A few people will appreciate some of Adobe Reader’s lesser-used features, such as the ability to digitally sign documents. However, Adobe Reader arguably has too many features. Features like allowing PDFs to run JavaScript code have unsurprisingly led to security holes in the past, and it’s clear that most people would be better off with a faster, minimal, more secure PDF reader.


Mozilla introduced an integrated PDF viewer, known as PDF.js, in Firefox 19. You don’t need a PDF viewer installed on your computer – when you open a PDF in Firefox, Firefox’s integrated PDF viewer will take care of things.

Firefox’s PDF viewer actually isn’t a browser plug-in at all. It’s written in JavaScript, the same scripting language used by web pages in your  browser. This means that Firefox’s PDF viewer is fully sandboxed the same way web pages are, which gives you additional security benefits. When you use a plug-in like Adobe Reader, your browser’s built-in security doesn’t necessarily apply – you’re relying on the plug-in’s developers instead.



Google Chrome also has an integrated PDF viewer, which it’s had since 2010. Unlike Firefox’s PDF viewer, Chrome’s PDF viewer is actually a plug-in bundled with Chrome. Google handles updates for the plug-in, just as it handles updates for Chrome itself and Chrome’s bundled Flash plug-in.

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You can use your browser’s built-in PDF viewer to view local PDF files, too. You can even make Firefox or Chrome your default PDF viewer by right-clicking a PDF file on your computer, selecting the Open With option, and selecting Firefox or Chrome. Your browser will open and display the PDF whenever you double-click a PDF file on your computer.

pdf readers

Windows 8

Windows was the last mainstream operating system to add PDF support, and Windows 8 finally comes with a PDF viewer, known as “Reader”. Unfortunately, Reader is a “Modern” app and there’s no included desktop version of Reader. You can open PDFs from the desktop and they’ll open in the full-screen Reader app by default, but if you want a desktop application so you can view PDFs while you do other things on your computer, Reader just doesn’t cut it.

If you want to read PDFs on the desktop, you can use the PDF support built into Firefox or Chrome. You can also use a third-party PDF reader.


Mac, Linux, iOS, & Android

On other operating systems, we’ve taken for granted that Adobe Reader isn’t required. Macs come with Preview, Linux distributions come with Evince or another PDF reader, Android has a built-in PDF viewer, and iPhones and iPads also have built-in PDF support.

Adobe Reader is actually available for all of these operating systems, although the version of Adobe Reader available for Linux is outdated. You’ll find Adobe Reader on Apple’s app store and Android’s Google Play, but the included apps should work fine for you.

linux pdf viewer

Alternative PDF Readers For Windows

We’ve covered a variety of great alternative PDF readers in the past, including the well-known Foxit Reader, super-lightweight Sumatra PDF, and more. If you want to install a third-party PDF reading app on your PC, check out our list of the best PDF readers for Windows.

These PDF readers are often faster than Adobe Reader because they don’t pack in as many features. They may not work properly if you need support for digital signatures, filling and validating built-in forms, and other features. In these cases, you may need to use Adobe Reader. However, most PDFs are just documents you view – that was the original point of a PDF, after all. For the majority of people, the above solutions will offer a better experience.

Alternative PDF readers are also often more secure, as security vulnerabilities found in Adobe Reader generally don’t affect these other PDF readers. Adobe Reader’s additional features add up to a bigger target for attackers to exploit.

free pdf readers

What do you use to view PDFs? Do you stick with your platform’s built-in PDF reader or do you use an alternative PDF reader? Leave a comment and tell us what you make use of!

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This article may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

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